Monday night marked round two of Surrey Decides Question Time 2019. The night was dedicated to the Activity Zone, with candidates for the Activity Zone, Societies Chair, Team Surrey Chair and VP Activity given the platform to impress. If you are unaware of what the Activity Zone does, please click here to see The Stag’s full rundown of what to look out for when voting.
Activity Zone Candidates
Chaired by The Stag’s co-news editor Irene García, each candidate for the part-time Activity Zone roles were confident in their contrasting opinions.
Dec Greaves shot out of the blocks with a direct and clear opening statement which ensured that his four key manifesto points were hammered home. The current Vice-President of the Athletics and Cross-Country Club, demonstrated his vast knowledge of the role, going into detail about the role of signatories and his thoughts on how he would rectify the waning STARS system.
Similarly, Jamal Ollier exuded confidence as he spoke of his connections with an array of faculties within the university. The President of the Theatre Society was quizzed about his main point of introducing yearbooks. This idea was well researched, with Jamal offering several alternative price-points and designs for this venture.
With a focus on increasing publicity on Refreshers Fair, Aman Karia was passionate and well-researched in equal measure. The candidate argued that Refreshers Fair is a relatively unknown entity within the student body, and so he wishes to use it as a launchpad to reignite students’ interest for societies.
In an alternative approach to increasing participation, Callam Mota argued that by highlighting charity work that societies have done, they will be more desirable for students. Moreover, by producing video diaries of freshers talking about their experiences in societies and clubs, the candidate hopes to remove the stigma surrounding societies at Surrey.
When questioned about her policies of increasing participation of minority groups, Caitlin Bingham remarked that her experience in Dodgeball society will help her organise appropriate events. However, questions were raised about how she would market her ideas to increase participation, citing the use of her own social media and reaching out to individuals.
Jessi Green also opted for greater interaction, but this time with committees instead of students. If elected, she hopes to engage students to use societies as a platform to alleviate stress.
Raghad Ellazkani was able to bounce back when the chair questioned her on her ‘cheat sheet’ policy on her manifesto and how it differed from the already existent Committee Handbook for societies. She informed the audience that she had talked to the current VP Activity on ways to improve and expand on this handbook to offer committees more support, while remaining calm and confident in her answers.
Hana was an adaptable candidate who appeared to be flexible when questioned about her manifesto. This proved popular when she proposed better marketing strategies to increase participation.
Finally, by acknowledging that as a first year she does not have the greatest experience of Surrey Decides, Annabel Fuller’s warm personality was well received by the crowd. Her policies involve increasing weekend activity to engage the student population whose passion isn’t lobbing VK bottles on a Wednesday and Friday night in Rubix.
Surrey Societies Chair
Chaired by Solomon Melides, this debate saw discussion between four candidates: Nadya Dimitrova, Rahul Kakaiya, Alfira Ratnamalinda, and Luke Harvey. They came across as strong, confident contestants prepared for all the questions thrown their way, being able to give confident answers to questions related to exec motions and manifesto points.
Luke Harvey used his previous experience as a part-time officer in the Activity zone to establish his presence on the stage. He mentioned his SurreySocs Instagram initiative and how he wishes to keep working on building the brand, as well as explaining his role as a Liberation Committee member and how he intends to continue working alongside them in the following year should he get elected.
Alfira Ratnamalinda’s policies relied heavily on the importance of collaboration, suggesting monthly collaborations between societies in order to improve student experience through societies. She also wants to offer societies support in order to achieve their goals by focusing on smaller societies that don’t have a large on-campus presence.
Rahul Kakaiya explained how he would manage to meet with all societies as a way of improving communication by stating he would aim to talk to groups of similar societies at a time, and not meeting with every society individually. He stressed the importance of ensuring students are aware of the opportunities and employability skills that are available to students when they actively participate in societies.
Finally, Nadya Dimitrova highlighted the importance of tackling gender diversity in societies as well as working towards being more inclusive of other marginalised groups such as the LGBT+ community and disabled people in order to break down stigmas and increase society participation.
Team Surrey Chair
Even before the Team Surrey Chair candidates had a chance to relax, the chair Faten Rahman subverted the question time format by asking the candidates a string of quickfire questions. Each candidate did reasonably well, yet this format was executed poorly. Although it is a prerequisite for candidates to be well researched in their role, the format seemed to be more of a memory test than a genuine, testing quiz. Moreover, the candidates did not get a chance to introduce themselves, with Malin Schulz personally asking the chair if she could introduce herself and her policies.
The candidate remained composed when the messy structure fell apart and took a firm stance against sports club initiations. In order to widen participation, she argued that she would attempt to review timetables to make sure every student gets the opportunity to join a sports club.
James Radford-Flint came under heavy fire throughout the evening, but he survived unscathed. He made a stance against stereotypes in societies and, when pressed by the chair, he used relevant facts to support his argument constantly drawing upon his experience from being committee members for Badminton and Sailing Club.
Maya Altamimi was also extremely well researched in her manifesto points. Her policy of creating cheaper kit was popular with the crowd who were shocked when it was revealed that part of the university’s deal with PlayerLayer, the current kit provider, is to lock the prices at extortionate rates for students. The President of the Women’s Football Club supported education for committees regarding initiations rather than Malin’s firm approach.
The last debate of the night saw three candidates giving their all to win your vote for the next VP Activity. Lizzie Rodulson, Riddhish Mistry, and George Green expanded on their manifesto points and explained how they plan on making their policies become a reality, displaying plenty of preparedness for the role when mentioning the research they had done.
Chaired by Hannah Androulaki-Khan, candidates often interjected into the conversation to rebut and add on to each other’s points, ensuring the flow of the debate remained natural and thoroughly entertaining.
There was no shortage of ‘spice’ during this round of Question Time, with the chair pulling up an old Facebook post of Green’s concerning Katie Hopkins, a rather controversial figure, and asking him to explain his opinion. The Union have since issued an apology for this.
A key moment of the night happened when the chair inquired why none of the candidates had included the words ‘Team Surrey’ in their manifesto. All three of them worked around the question and promised to strongly collaborate with Team Surrey to improve it as much as possible.
George Green elaborated on his desire to promote a healthy lifestyle at university, going beyond physical activity into good eating habits. He stated that it was key to encourage students to join extra-curricular activities to increase student satisfaction and went on to discuss the importance of focusing on smaller societies to help them achieve their goals. Lastly, Green made it evident how key digital media was in his campaign, as he explored the possibility of creating Microsoft Teams to help societies stay connected, as well as revamping the Union website to make information and training more accessible.
Lizzie Rodulson emphasised the importance of inclusivity in sport and societies and delved into how she intends to expand on This Girl Can week and Feel Good Feb for disengaged men to participate in men-only events, like the recently organised ‘Broga’. Drawing on her experience as a current member of the Activity zone, Rodulson displayed thorough knowledge of the Union backed up by the research she had done to bring her policies to life.
When asked for his reasons to run, Riddhish Mistry simply replied, “Because I’m passionate”. This sentiment echoed its way throughout Mistry’s answers throughout the night, even when he jokingly stated that he would be willing to carry out the role for free. He highlighted the importance of training so that students know how to properly manage a society and placed wellbeing at the core of his policies, stating how he wishes to introduce Welfare Reps across all societies so that, for one week a year, students have a safe space to go to that isn’t necessarily the Centre for Wellbeing.